Note to family members and others who don't want to read about my personal sex life: Although this piece mostly talks about sexual things that I don't do rather than sexual things that I do, it does talk about my personal sex life, and my personal sexual fantasies, in quite a bit of detail. And it talks about aspects of my personal sex life and sexual fantasies that may be way too much information. If you don't want to read about that stuff, please, please don't.
This piece originally appeared on the Blowfish Blog.
I'm going to talk about something sexual that I don't do, instead of something that I do.
I'm going to talk about punishment.
It may seem strange, but although I've been practicing SM for about twenty years now, I have almost never done what is almost certainly the most common form of SM play. As a top, I've done punishment less than a handful of times... and I've done it as a bottom exactly never, except in a jokey, "wink-wink," kidding around way.
It's not that I haven't done role-playing. But the role-playing I've done hasn't been about, "You've been bad, so I’m going to punish you." It’s been about, “I have power over you, so I'm going to do what I want with you." Punishment has just never interested me.
So I want to look at what it is about punishment that freaks me out... and what it is about it that I'm beginning to find so compelling.
The freak-out part is easy, actually. I already feel bad about myself at the drop of a hat. It takes very little for me to feel like I've fucked up, like I'm a disappointment. And the feeling cuts me to the heart. I hate it. I sure as hell don't want to bring it into the bedroom with me. In the bedroom, I want to feel valued, appreciated. Even if it's by an amoral bully abusing their power over me to get their sadistic rocks off -- I still want to feel like I'm pleasing them. I don't want to feel like I've let them down.
Except lately, that's shifting. In my fantasies, anyway. When I imagine playing with punishment in real life, it feels enticing and seductive... but it also feels like there's an emotional hair-trigger trap in there, one that could go off at any second. This may be one of those fantasies that I decide to keep a fantasy.
But it's rare that a fantasy goes from a major squick, an "I don't even like to think about that" deal, to a central part of my masturbation fantasies. So I want to figure out what exactly is so compelling about it.
And for me at least, it goes back to power.
The rush of power is what gets me off about role-play. The feeling of having power in my hands, of having another person under my control who I can use and manipulate at will; or the feeling of having power wielded over me, of having my body and my sexuality controlled by a strong and forceful person... that's what it's all about. (Apart from the purely physical sadomasochistic pleasure of the pain itself, which is a whole other deal and doesn't need any role-playing or power dynamics to get the job done.)
Now, obviously, you don't need to have punishment to play with power. For most of my sex life, my power games and fantasies have not been about, "I have authority over you and I'm going to punish you because you've been bad." They've been about, "I have power over you, and I'm going to wield it simply because I want to." The baron molesting the scullery maid; the Stasi agent tormenting the captive; the cop violating the citizen... it's pure abuse of power, one person using another simply because they can. And for me, it has a kick like a mule.
But I'm beginning to get that there’s an extra kick of power in punishment.
And that's the power to make the victim feel like they deserve it.
In a "pure abuse of power" scene, you have control over the victim's body. But in a punishment scene, you have power over their mind as well. You have power over their very sense of self. You don't just have the power to make their body suffer -- you have the power to make their conscience suffer, too. You have the power to make them feel, not just helpless and frightened and hurting, but ashamed.
And vice versa. If you're playing the victim, if what you get off on is the feeling of power being wielded over you, I'm beginning to see why punishment could have an intense appeal. If you get off on feeling helpless, on feeling submissive, on feeling small, on feeling bent to someone else’s will... I can see why being punished could be almost irresistible.
Because it would make you feel that way inside as well as out. It would make you feel helpless and submissive, small and bent to someone else's will... not just on your skin and in your muscles and genitals, but in your heart.
And I suspect this is why it feels so dangerous, as well as so enticing.